Tony Quinn (QLD) and Naomi Tillett (SA) in a 2008 Nissan GT-R have won this year’s Targa Tasmania. Quinn was at the pointy end of the field throughout the event, but he faced an eight second deficit to the 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera of Kevin Weeks (SA) leading into the final day. And what a drama filled day it proved to be.
The cool and wet conditions which faced the drivers meant it was a case of finding that balance between pushing hard and simply staying on the black stuff.
The first stage of Leg 5, TS35 ‘Strahan’, was a 33.3km long stretch of unforgiving slippery tarmac. And with the start point on the edge of the town itself, drivers were given little chance to work much needed heat into their tyres and brakes.
Quinn fought desperately hard in the heavy GT-R and was 11 seconds faster than Weeks. The ball was now in Weeks’ court and he attempted to wrestle back the lead on the following 6.4km ‘Queenstown’ stage. The stage begins with a tight and twisty climb out of the mining town, before opening up into a frighteningly quick downhill section. It was here that the result of the rally was decided when Weeks lost control and flew off the bitumen into the roadside scrub and bushes.
It was a savage incident and Weeks and navigator Rebecca Crunkhorn were airlifted to Hobart General Hospital. Fortunately, both suffered little more than bruised pride, Crunkhorn was released later that day, but Weeks remained in hospital overnight with suspected rib injuries. The South Australian is expected to make a speedy recovery.
Local competitors Jason and John White, also in a Lamborghini Gallardo were now in second place. For the previous four days they formed part of a very tight leaderboard, but mechanical gremlins suffered by the Lambo on the final few stages meant that Tony Quinn would claim a six minute winning margin. The largest in the event’s 18 year history.
Quinn and Weeks have both come very close to winning Targa Tasmania in the past. Both are likeable characters and either driver would have proved to be a popular winner. Speaking at the post-rally function the following day “Quinny” was gracious in victory and expressed heartfelt thanks to the numerous well wishes and support he and navigator Naomi Tillet had received.
Targa Tasmania is a gruelling event, extremely tough on cars and a fierce mental test of driver and navigator, anyone who thinks Quinn won this event simply because he was driving a GT-R is kidding themselves.
Indeed, eight-time winner Jim Richards made a rare error and crashed out of the event for the first time in over 15 starts. The 2008 Targa West winner, Steve Jones, driving a 2008 Nissan GT-R, also crashed out. The quality at the pointy end of the field was high, so too were the demands placed on driver and machine.
After crossing the finish line Quinn was a very happy man, “I’ve always been bridesmaid to Jim (Richards) or the Whites or somebody else, and we’re very pleased to finally win it. It hasn’t sunk in yet and it feels like it’s been the toughest and most competitive week there’s ever been in Targa.
“The top five or six guys have just been going hard at it. The proof in that is that Jimmy (Richards), for the first time ever, had a crash.”
Winners in other categories were Greg Johnston (TAS) and Mike Stoneman (TAS) in the Showroom category at the wheel of a 2007 Mitsubishi Evo IX. While Rex Broadbent (VIC) and Michael Goedheer (VIC) won the Classic category in a 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS. Amazingly, Broadbent finished eighth outright!
For more on the final placings and quotes from the drivers, check out the Targa Tasmania website.
Stay tuned also for my Targa wrap after spending 10 days in Tassie as a service crew member following the fortunes, and misfortunes, of Andrew Robinson and Stu Jones in their MINIs.